No, this isn’t about Harvey Weinstein per se; he is but the latest in a long string of issues where Hollywood (used here as a proxy for the movie/TV industry as a whole) cannot seem to see its own hypocrisy. People in Hollywood tend to get the large part of their fame from literally pretending to be somebody else. (Yes, I know, it’s called “acting.”) When Hollywood decides to get political, though, they tend to be virulently against anything representing conservative principles and values. The “why” behind that is multi-facted: liberalism sounds more compassionate at first blush; those mean, nasty conservatives are the ones against our edgier art; I’m surrounded by these people and I don’t want to rock the boat.
Whatever the motivation, though, the Weinstein scandal exposes just another area where Hollywood claims to advocate one thing, but their product and actions contradict themselves.
On screens large and small, guns are everywhere. The criminals have them, the police have them (though sometimes the police are the criminals), and the really good guys can use them to fight for good (think Jason Bourne, or the Taken franchise). Yet, more than 9 out of 10 denizens of Hollywood are pro gun-control legislation, to the point where blood was still drying on the pavement in Las Vegas when they began beating that drum again. (I don’t even have time to get into the entire “silencer” thing; I think that they think those work the way they do in the movies, not the way they actually do.)
Well, Hollywood - you’ve shown us how things get resolved. Bringing in the firepower is the way you fix situations.
Hollywood got on the glow-bull warming train a long, long time ago, and has amplified every doomsday and “man is killing the planet” claim that came along. They are so impassioned about this that they attend global conferences about this pressing issue… in their private jets, the mostly-least-efficient way to get there. Their primary homes are large mansions, and they usually have vacation homes as well. (This isn’t simple envy; I’d live in a mansion and get away to my vacation home too - if I could afford it. I just wouldn’t claim that I’m saving the planet from a death sentence while doing it.) The logisitics required to produce a blockbuster movie are staggering - yet they use them time and again, to line their pockets.
Actions speak louder than words; you say it’s a problem, but your behavior tells us otherwise.
Speaking of lining one’s pockets…
Hollywood is greatly concerned with the topic of income inequality. I mean, it’s just not right that women earn 77 cents on the dollar as compared with men! (Well, except for the fact that, in reality, that number was poorly calculated when it first came out, and even that same flawed calculation gives a larger number now.) Yet, Hollywood continues to have very few female leads, and even when they do, there are often also male leads, who are earning double or more for the same film. It may be hard for us to think that there’s really that much difference between $5 million and $10 million.
It’s not just gender issues, either; at every opportunity, they support government programs to give things away, whether it’s medical care, food, or tax exemptions. Of course, it’s the government giving this things away, not them; compared to more conservative parts of the country, charitable contributions are low. In fact, what often passes for “charity” in Hollywood are dinners where the actual stars simply show up; the thousands-per-plate prices are paid by the well-connected but lesser-known people.
Plus - these folks amass their millions off the backs of the ~$10 ticket prices paid by average people. As a generally free-market guy, I’m not faulting them for extracting the value they believe society places on their craft. It does seem to me, though, they could be a bit more magnanimous instead of deriding the very people whose money has given them such a comfortable and fabulous life.
There is one place where actress salaries outpace actor salaries - the adult film industry. Which leads us to…
We’ll talk about Weinstein, et. al. - but let’s look at some history first. For years, decades, Hollywood has ridiculed those of us who have bemoaned the increasing vulgarity and explicit sexuality, telling us that a) it was artistically necessary to advance their story; b) it’s just a fictional story; and c) lighten up, you prudes! Now, I am not unaware of the balancing act between showing enough for people to get the point and not becoming gratuitous (this doesn’t apply exclusively to sexual content). If two people are kissing at the end of a date, the screen fades to black, and the next scene are them both in PJs at the breakfast table - does that not advance the story just as much as an extended scene with nudity, thrusting, and noises?
Traditional sexual morality has never been Hollywood’s interest. At times, the portrayals are setups to show the negative consequences of those actions; more frequently, they’re either just straight titillation, or they’re done by characters for whom we’re now rooting. Their private lives mirror their art; in fact, the term “Hollywood marriage” describes a union of two beautiful people which will only last until the next opportunity comes along.
The “casting couch” has become legend, and enterprising women decided that they could use their assets to break through that way, literally sleeping their way to the top. It’s a terrible thing to spell out that way, but facts are often terrible. Hollywood is not alone in this scenario; business, politics, and sports also have their stories of powerful men who used women for their own pleasure, maybe with the promise of preferential treatment or advancement. I’m glad that they are starting to see that this is a bad deal, but are you the ones telling us conservatives that we have a “War on Women” because we don’t want the government to pay for killing a baby in a woman’s womb?
I doubt anyone from Hollywood is reading this, and it’s already longer than I’d set out to write, so I’ll wrap this up here. I’m glad that a lot of people are coming forward to tell their stories and condemn Harvey Weinstein; it would mean a whole lot more if they had done so before it became trendy to do so. In summary, here’s how I see the recent action taken by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences:
An organization, whose members still include Roman Polanski and Bill Cosby, decided to expel Harvey Weinstein.
Sounds harsh, but what else am I to make of this picture?
First off, the dumb part. Why would a computer hacker, hacking computers across a network, need to obscure his face? (In CNN’s defense, they’re not the only ones to use dumb pictures to caption hacking.) Companies like CNN have smart technology people writing for them, as well as freelancers and others. Why does this type of image persist? Look at Kevin Mitnick, Dan Kaminsky, Meredith L. Patterson, or Shawn Fanning (creator of Napster, but branded by non-tech people as a hacker, or worse). Do any of those look like “hackers” to you? This metaphor makes people more likely to not believe it when they actually see a hacker.
And second - a hoodie? Are you serious, CNN? Weren’t you lecturing us a scant two weeks ago on how people in hoodies were perfectly fine? They were as pure as the wind-driven snow, representing everything that is right with the country, and people who thought otherwise were terrible racists? How do we know this guy isn’t just updating Facebook on a public computer before he makes his way home from the convenience store? But, no - you definitely have him portrayed as the bad guy in this image. You are convicted by your own words; shame on you, CNN. I’ll be waiting for your apology (but I won’t be holding my breath).
This is the first (or last, depending on how you’re reading these) entry in the series “2011 Year in Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous.” 2011 may go down in history as one of the craziest yet. It’ll be tough to narrow it down to just a few things to keep this at a reasonable length - but, we’ll try.
Occupy Wall Street
For me, this was an easy pick. This movement, starting in the fall and continuing in some cities to this day, stands for… well, that’s part of it. They claimed inspiration from the Arab Spring, but had the minor detail that they weren’t under an oppressive regime. They boldly proclaimed that they were the 99% of income earners, railing against the income inequality between themselves and the top 1%. The phrase “I am the 99%” became one of their rallying cries. The main problem with the movement, however, was the absolute lack of a goal. What did they hope to accomplish? A list was posted online, but then others said that this list was not right. I addressed some of the issues surrounding that in my #OWS, Educate Thyself series, so I won’t re-hash that here.
Some claimed that this was the liberal’s response to the conservative Tea Party movement of 2010. However, their rap sheet grew rapidly, including rape, homicide, public indecency, and disturbing the peace. Public health concerns grew over these encampments, evidenced by a tuberculosis outbreak in Atlanta and “Zucotti Lung” among New York’s occupiers. This was no Tea Party. As some within the group tried to organize, others worked against organization, which led to confusion all around.
Then the time came to evict these protesters, which led to even more ridiculousness. Some mayors were more adamant than others, and some even spoke against their own police forces. Pepper spray flew in many cities, and on the campus of the University of California Davis. Occupiers in Portland are trying to shut down ports. As winter sets in, many of the camps have closed, but the aimless angst continues. The needed conversations regarding ridiculous executive compensation and police tactics will likely be drowned out by the shouting.
The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)
This is a late-breaking entry, but it still happened in 2011. This bill gives the US Government the right to redirect Domain Name Service (DNS) entries for sites that host or participate in software piracy to a different site, similar to the ICE domain seizures that have been happening for a while now. There are many problems with this idea (which may sound good to some, on the surface). First, this breaks the DNS system, particularly the upcoming DNS Secure (DNSSec) protocol, which aims to prevent the DNS cache poisoning attacks that are becoming quite prevalent. Secondly, the concept of seizing an entire domain over suspected (not proven) activity circumvents due process; many large sites are approaching common-carrier status, and apart from DMCA take-down notices, aren’t able to police or censor their content. It completely misses the point of how the Internet works. Creating a system like this just invites abuse, which is ironic, considering the law purports to be trying to fight it.
The main forces behind this legislation are the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), two organizations who have shown themselves clueless as to how the Internet works time and time again. This brings in the biggest problem of all. This is the equivalent of the horse-and-buggy lobby writing laws against cars, to ensure their continued existence. There were many fine buggy crafstmen, I’m sure, who were put out of work by these new horseless carriages. Those craftsmen who chose to adapt and learn new skills were successful; those who sat on the sidelines were not.
The RIAA and MPAA have fought tooth and nail against technology for decades. (Anyone remember DAT?) They are slow to adapt. It was said that FM radio was going to kill record sales, because people wouldn’t buy them when they could hear the music for free. The cassette recorder would kill album sales, because people could record music themselves. The VCR would kill movie sales, because people could record movies from TV, cable, and LaserDiscs. They’ve proved themselves on the wrong side of technology at nearly every turn, and they’re wrong here. Their current efforts are doing two things - frustrating people like Tom Merritt (Update: Google+ is gone, and so is the link), who want to comply with the law, and encouraging piracy.
Back in 2008, a young girl named Caylee Anthony disappeared in Florida. Her mom reported her missing, and a half a year later, her remains were found. Through the police investigation, the clues they found all pointed toward one conclusion - her mother Casey had killed her and hidden her body. I won’t recount all the details for that - you can see them at that link. It’s not ridiculous, it’s just sad.
The ridiculous parts of this, though, were plentiful. The first was the “Trial of the Century” hype; this was, to some extent, a self-fulfilling prophecy. The media should cover the story, they should not be the story. The trial should have been covered, but the circus that was the trial was absolutely ridiculous. The second was Casey’s behavior. Her daughter is dead, she knows about it (according to her testimony), yet she’s out partying like there’s no tomorrow. Even if that were her regular M.O., I can assure you that if one of my children is missing, I wouldn’t be occupying my usual schedule. The third was her defense - Caylee died in the pool, and she was too scared to call the police, instead dumping the child’s body and instigating a huge manhunt for this child. Really? And her parents supported her in these claims! The fourth was the verdict - not guilty. There was so much wrong with this case, even if there wasn’t enough for capital murder, there were lesser charges that were also found not guilty.
The narrative is drama-filled, Casey is an attractive young lady, so this story is probably not done. I wish it were. I hesitated on putting her on this list, because attention to people like this only encourages them.
This seemed to be the year when many folks found out how Twitter works the hard way. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) tweeted a picture of his (let’s just say “namesake”) to a follower. Instead of using a direct message, which is private, he simply typed an @ symbol followed by the follower’s name, which is public to whoever views his timeline. He claimed to have been hacked; these claims were refuted, and he admitted to sending the message, as well as to many indiscretions against his newly-pregnant wife. He resigned his seat in the wake of this.
Other celebrities had trouble with the filter that’s supposed to sit between the texting fingers and the brain. Gilbert Gottfried tweeted jokes about the Japanese tsunami, and was dropped as the voice of the AFLAC duck. Ashton Kutcher tweeted his support of Penn State’s Joe Paterno in the wake of Paterno’s firing, which he later clarified once he learned the reasons behind. Alec Baldwin explored a New York mayoral run via Twitter, and ended up canceling his account after being booted from an airline flight for failing to turn off his iPad. His reason? Words with Friends. And, early in the year, Twitter was one of the places where Charlie Sheen’s epic breakdown unfolded, giving birth to the hashtag #WINNING.
As with all of these reviews, this is nowhere close to an exhaustive list; but, that’ll do. Some of these are ongoing; we’ll hope and pray that if they make next year’s list, it’ll be on the good list due to their dissolution.
The Cain Administration filled the role of First Lady 43 years ago
There have been some other “flashes” in the primary season so far, but each of them occurred after the candidate announced. Cain was one of the first declared candidates, and every time he talks, his numbers go up. One of the complaints many of us had in 2008 was that we felt that John McCain was selected by the media rather than elected by the people. “He’s electable,” they said, “unlike these other guys…” To an extent, this is the prevailing narrative surrounding Perry and Romney; the former isn’t electable, while the latter is.
The media doesn’t want to acknowledge Cain, because he causes some problems in their view of the way politics in America works. (If the name wasn’t already taken, maybe we’d call them “inconvenient truths”…) Let’s take a look at these; rather than liabilities, these are strengths that will not only force conversation on these issues, but areas in which he resonates with the average American.
1. He’s black
As a Democrat, this is a plus; as a Republican, this must mean that there’s something wrong! (Yet we’re the ones who are called racists - go figure.) Republicans have been pilloried as racists (or worse) for not supporting various Democrat candidates over the years - Jesse Jackson, Geraldine Ferraro, Barack Obama - with claims that we didn’t support them because they were black or female. Why the “impartial” media amplifies these ridiculous claim is probably a bigger topic than we have time for here, but they are willing accomplices in painting the party of Lincoln as racists. Only in the affirmative-action-addled mind is one’s race or gender a plus (if you’re a minority) or minus (if you’re a white male).
The media simply cannot abide a black man with a broad base of Republican support. I honestly believe that their minds are so steeped in their fantasy view of the world that they can’t wrap their minds around this. This is a plus for him; his story of challenge-to-success is both authentic and inspiring. There was great celebration around Obama’s election, which proved that racism was over; a week later, we started with the stories about how he was in danger because these racists wouldn’t accept a black president. There is no appeasing these race-accusers; refuting their claims via our actions is the only thing that will may silence them.
2. He’s successful
This blows up the media narrative as well. He isn’t a low-to-medium-performing “diversity” hire (hired solely for his skin color), he has used his own education and work ethic to rise to the top. Through his two turnaround-CEO roles and his leadership of the National Restaurant Association, he has shown that you can get tangible results if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and do some hard work. While our current president was fomenting and organizing rage against the establishment (you do know what a “community organizer” does, right?), Herman Cain was working hard, making his businesses profitable, and stimulating both the national economy and the personal economies of his company’s employees.
We should have known what we were in for, starting with the “present” votes in the Senate. Then, on to the ridiculously-named “Office of the President-Elect” (it’s called a “transition team”), the job-killing health insurance mandate, two stimulus plans (plus an attempted third in the name of jobs) - I’m hard-pressed to think of a single program that the current administration has attempted that has actually made things better. It’s time for a leader with proven results.
3. He’s electable
I think that the media doesn’t know what that word means. Bob Dole and John McCain? Electable. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush? Unelectable. Yeah, that must be in some AP style guide somewhere, that mandates the opposite use of that word. Maybe it’s like with your kids, where they don’t seem to hear the words “not” and “don’t,” choosing instead to do whatever it is you just prohibited.
This narrative on electability is just laughable. The media cannot see through their bias to understand what the average American actually wants. They want jobs. They want to be successful. They want to see their neighbors successful. They want to be able to make decisions for their family without the interference of a heavy-handed government. This is exactly what Herman Cain brings to the table, and stands in stark contrast to the current administration.
So - if you’re expecting the “news” to inform you on Herman Cain, you’re going to be waiting a while. If you think I’m off-base, research him and see for yourself. If you agree that the above sounds good, let’s get together and work to make sure that Cain’s success is so huge that even MSNBC can’t ignore it!
UPDATE: Today’s Wall Street Journal has an article called “Taking Cain Seriously.” It summarizes Cain’s qualifications quite nicely.
2010 was quite a year. To wrap it up, I’m bringing back a mostly annual tradition here of the three-post “Year in Review - The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous.” Per tradition, the posts are published in reverse, so when they’re all posted, the good is on top. With no further ado, the ridiculous…
The BP Oil Spill
While this, on its own merits, would have landed on the bad list, the incompetence surrounding the spill launched it to the top of the list. On the front side, BP’s pencil-whipped audits and ignoring of safety warnings is deplorable; those controls are there because they are necessary, and I’m sure that shutting off that particular well until it was fixed would have been much cheaper than clean-up from the spill was. On the back end, the US government’s response was horrible. The failure to quickly approve waivers for foreign ships and exhaust regulations, and the failure to accept help from other countries in containing the spill while it was small, was eerily similar to the failures surrounding Hurricane Katrina. These failures led to the effects of the spill being far greater than they need to be.
While the Gulf does seem to be recovering more quickly than expected, there will be pockets of oil and a poorer overall quality of water in the Gulf of Mexico for years. The knee-jerk reaction of stopping all off-shore drilling compounds the problem. A safety down-time to recheck all the rigs is in order, but once the rigs are found to be safe, there is no reason that they should sit idle. This also illustrates the ridiculousness of prohibiting drilling on land; how much easier would this well have been to seal up if it was in land? But, to placate tree-huggers and NIMBYs, we’re drilling through a mile of water to get oil.
What solidifies this ridiculousness is that we seemingly have learned nothing from these lessons. Time will tell, and I won’t feel any joy and bringing this back up, but I have a feeling we’ll be revisiting stories similar to this one if things don’t change.
United States v. Arizona
One of the basic rights recognized by our legal system is the right to self defense. Many things that would be otherwise illegal are justified when they are done in self defense. The state of Arizona is experiencing an influx of illegal aliens streaming across its southern border, and people who live in southern Arizona are encountering increasing violence from these illegals. While the Federal government has laws on the books, the current administration (and the one before it) seemed to be more interested in turning this group of illegal aliens into voters than enforcing the law. So, Arizona passes laws similar to the ones the Federal government has. Simple self-defense, borne of necessity due to inaction by the Federal government in the face of mounting threats.
How does the US government respond? With loud denunciation, even threats of lawsuits against Arizona if they enforce these new laws. They are joined by the media, who painted heart-wrenching pictures of illegals who were deciding to move because of the new laws. (To which I say, “Good!” I read one where the illegal was going to Colorado, and I thought, “Well, that’s the wrong direction.”) The law makes the state less hospitable to those who shouldn’t be there in the first place; just as the laws passed in Oklahoma a few years back, this is a good thing.
How much better shape would Mexico be in if they had another 30 million workers there, stimulating its economy? How much better would employment opportunities be here if there were 30 million fewer potential employees, many of whom skirt labor laws? This is win-win! Each nationality lives and works in their own country, and we visit each others’ countries on vacation. It works well for Canada - why wouldn’t it work with Mexico?
The Spiraling Inanity of Reality TV
The Real World started it, Survivor perfected it, and many, many other have followed it. I don’t know that 2010 was the year when this “jumped the shark,” but it certainly continued down the trail. It appears that script writing is becoming a lost art, except on cable channels, where the shows aren’t subject to the restrictions of over-the-air TV; basic cable can now be categorized as either sports, news, reruns, niche networks, and train wrecks. A&E has gone from Biography to Billy the Exterminator; History has gone from actual history to current-day shows that may be tangentially-related to history. This probably explains why I’ve been watching less and less TV that isn’t sports or news.
(One notable exception to this are the sitcoms on ABC; this is likely why they are so successful.)
Finally, a ridiculous quote to finish it off, from now-former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi - “But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”
Presbyterians? Methodists? Catholics? Wiccans? You know the answer to that…
One of the fall’s most anticipated video games for the PlayStation 3, Sony’s “LittleBigPlanet,” had to be yanked from shelves at the last minute Monday because it might accidentally offend Muslims.
You can read the whole article here. It seems that one of the songs has two lines that also appear in the Koran. You know, I’d actually be happy if a popular video game had a song with a few lines from the Bible. But, I guess since Christians don’t handle their offense the same way Muslims do, we just get to get offended.
(Not that I want censure of anything that may offend any religion - most religions can handle it.)
This Sunday, April 27th, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition will be featuring the Martinez family from Albuquerque, New Mexico. This is the build that we saw happening, and the genesis for the idea of the Not So Extreme Makeover: Community Edition (NSX) that we took part in last month. Gerald Martinez is the pastor at Joshua’s Vineyard, an outreach church in one of the least-desired areas of Albuquerque. Through NSX, we became acquainted with him, and, while I can’t vouch for the other families that have received these, I can say that he is very deserving of the home he received. He has been working in that area for years, and when he wasn’t ministering to the people, he was trying to figure out how to get others in the community involved and engaged. This did it - it was truly an answer to prayer unfolding before our eyes.
On a personal note, our family was lining the street as Ty and Gerald walked around the corner to see another building they had built. They were talking, but who knows what will stay in or be left on the cutting room floor. We were standing just before the people in blue shirts - I can’t remember what I’m wearing, but I do know I was wearing Jameson on my head. Michelle was wearing a green shirt, and was right behind me. Our other two boys were standing in front of me. Who knows - you may see us if you watch closely!
Another exciting turn is that, according to popular local rumors, ABC has requested footage from NSX, so they may be showing some people who participated in that as well.
It will come on early this week - 6pm EDT/PDT, 7pm CDT/MDT - and it’ll run for two hours. Be sure to catch it!
Continuing the tradition started last year, I’m writing a three-part series “2007 Year in Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous.” And, as I did last year, I’ll post them in reverse order so they’re in the right order when they’re done. Without further ado…
Global Glow-Bull Warming
During 2007, the global warming movement was exposed for the political, not scientific, issue that it is. As with any movement which sees its power diminished, its adherents ramped up their rhetoric; and, in many ways, the movement has become a parody of itself. In April, Sheryl Crow suggested limiting how much toilet paper we use at each sitting, and suggested we wear “dining sleeves” - devices on which we can wipe our mouths, then remove them and replace them with a clean one. (I’m not sure if the extra water for that laundry offsets the lack of a paper napkin - and wouldn’t cloth napkins do the same thing?)
Carbon offsets were also shown to be next to useless. Carbon offsets, for the uninitiated, are fees one pays to a company which claims to do something “environmentally friendly” to offset one’s carbon emissions. (If that sounds familiar, it should - I believe this technique was pioneered by the Roman Catholic church under the name “indulgences.” Can’t stop sinning? Just get forgiveness beforehand!) A group of three environmentally-conscious people (not right-wing fanatics) created a site called CheatNeutral. It aspires to create a network of fidelity to offset those who cheat on their significant others. It illustrates the point beautifully - ten faithful people mean nothing if you’re the one being cheated on.
In October, Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on global warming, including his film An Inconvenient Truth. Inconveniently, though, many of the claims made in his film have been debunked. Also, a site called Surface Stations shows some of these temperature monitoring stations - these are the stations whose readings have been used to claim that temperatures are increasing. However, many stations are by air conditioning exhausts and other heat-producing structures. Finally, in December, at a UN conference in Bali on global warming, the man leading the negotiations broke down and cried. It must be rough to see all that power slipping away.
Never-Ending Political Cycle
I won’t talk much about this, because I’m pretty much tired of it just when it becomes time for it to actually happen. Do we really need a 2-year period of time to pick our next President?
This could probably be a ridiculous item every year, but this year seemed especially ridiculous. Earlier in the year, after Anna Nicole Smith passed away, a circus erupted over the paternity of her young daughter. I don’t even know where to start - if every one who claimed that they were the father had a relationship with her that would result in a child in the timeframe where it would be believable… Sheesh.
Train wrecks all over - Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears… Even Britney’s sister got into the fray. The biggest problem I have with all this is the amount of press they get, distracting people from other important issues. But, I don’t know whether to be more exasperated with the media for putting out the information, or the people who give it such good ratings that they keep pumping it out.
That’s enough ridiculousness for one year - up next, the bad…
Once the turkey has settled, the Christmas season swings into motion. (Yes, I know the Christmas trees are usually up before Labor Day - but that doesn’t mean I have to go along with it!) Let’s start this one by trotting out a “new classic” of Christmas. The house in the video is real - it isn’t a computer-generated animation. The guy would broadcast the sound on a low-frequency FM transmitter, so if a car were parked in front of the house, they could listen on their radios. The music is “Wizards in Winter” by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, from their album The Lost Christmas Eve.